T is for Tahmima Anam

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Born 1975
All of us Indians share this great curiosity for our Western neighbours, Pakistan. In quite a contrast, tucked away quietly in the Eastern corner, our other neighbour Bangladesh draws very little attention even though it shares as much of our history as does Pakistan. In many ways it is more similar to the Indian state of West Bengal than it is to Pakistan, of which it was once a part.
I wasn’t sure what I’d be served when I picked up A Good Muslim by a Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam. However the novel affected me like few others have. I found myself thinking about the right and wrong of religion and of sibling relationships. It left me a bit confused too. And I found myself hunting for the other book, the one written before this A Golden Age. I wasn’t disappointed there either.

The beginning

Tahmima Anam was born in Bangladesh but grew up abroad. Her father is the editor and Publisher of the Daily Star, an English newspaper in Bangladesh, so writing would have come pretty naturally. She completed a PhD in Anthropology from the Harvard University, which was based on the 1971 Bangladeshi war of Independence. While researching for her PhD she travelled and met people who had been part of the war. That’s where the seeds of her stories were sown.

Her books

Tahmima weaves intense human relationships in the setting of war and post war turmoil of Bangladesh.
A Golden Age is the story of Rehana. When she is widowed her children were given away to be brought up by her brother-in-law in far away Pakistan.  Rehana manages to get them back but now, years later, as she watches them plunge headlong into the war, she fears losing them yet again and is ready to sacrifice everything for them. One part of her wants to let them follow their heart in supporting the country’s struggle while another part wants to keep them safe.
The character of Rehana is loosely based on her own grandmother, also a widow. From a simple housewife she turned into a passionate nationalist during the war and much like Rehana she actively helped with the war effort and even harboured freedom fighters.
The Good Muslim talks about Rehana’s children Sohail and Maya in post-war Bangladesh. They are separated during the war. By the time they meet after a decade, the once close sister and brother, have grown far apart by the choices they have made. While Sohail embraces his faith becoming a charismatic Muslim leader Maya remains a revolutionary and cannot empathise with her brother’s choice. Caught in the tussle is Sohail’s son who Sohail puts is a madarsa to Maya’s distress. The book brings up issues of religion and how each one interprets it differently.
I had heard stories of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh. However the book made it very real for me. This is truly the best way to learn about history.

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Tomorrow we take a trip through India’s babudom. Guesses?
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This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, 2014 for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.


Also linking to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

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30 thoughts on “T is for Tahmima Anam

  • April 24, 2014 at 11:48 am
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    It's a new author for me! Thanks for the share! 🙂 I will grab her work!

    ~S(t)ri
    Participant|AtoZ Challenge 2014
    Smile, it makes (y)our day!

    Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 9:36 pm
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    Yet another author waiting to be discovered – thanks, Tulika. You are making my bookshelves groan even more. 🙂

    Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm
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    I had never heard of her before. She sounds like an extremely talented writer and her books sound fascinating! ♥

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  • April 23, 2014 at 9:51 am
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    Had not heard of her OM. Your write up is compelling!! thanks 🙂
    and yes.. thats the best way to learn about history!!

    Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 9:25 am
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    Your choice of books and authors is amazing. Love the potpourri of genres and stories, adding all books you recommended to my list 🙂

    Reply
    • April 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm
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      Thanks Sulekha. Isn't it wonderful how much is there for us to read?

      Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 8:07 am
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    Wow, the 2 books sound interesting. I was looking for books related to the history of India and Pakistan and I will surely pick these two books. Thank you for introducing authors I have never heard about.

    Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 6:25 am
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    I have never heard of this author and I somehow assumed you would be talking about Taslima Nasreen 🙂 She sounds really fascinating for her choice of subjects. The fact that she questions sibling relationships is itself good enough for me to be curious. 🙂 And, yep, I am with Aditi-not guessing for U. Will wait to be surprised 😀

    ~Shailaja's latest A~Z post

    Reply
    • April 23, 2014 at 5:39 pm
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      Do try her Shailaja. I too have hardly read authors from the Indian subcontinent, she was a surprise.

      Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 5:25 am
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    Ah, this is one new author for me. Thanks for sharing about her here. I haven't read her, so off this goes to my wishlist.

    And as for India's Babudom and U, it must be "English August, an Indian Story". I'm waiting for U(to) C 😀 😀

    Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 5:05 am
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    I have read the Good Muslim and though it did justice to the plot, emotions, characters didn't feel like picking up her second book. Books, fiction and not historic, have proved to be the best resource for me too in knowing the tragic wars that shaped our country. Good choice for T! 🙂
    N I'm not guessing any more… 😀

    Reply
    • April 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm
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      Thanks Aditi. Come now don't give up on the guessing.

      Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 3:40 am
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    1971 war – an important chapter in India's recent history. But it is rather unfortunate to see all that is happening in Bangladesh now in the name of religion….well, that's the nature of the world we live in I suppose! A good review of an author's work and what it means to you. Didn't know about this author. Thanks for introducing her!

    Beauty Interprets, Expresses, Manifests the Eternal

    Reply
    • April 23, 2014 at 5:26 pm
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      I enjoy reading about varied viewpoints even if I don't necessarily agree with them.

      Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 3:03 am
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    Sounds interesting. Haven't heard of her. You are widely read Tulika.

    Reply
  • April 23, 2014 at 12:23 am
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    Yes ,reading such books from writers who have authentic knowledge about their countries emables us learn more

    Reply

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